Chief Justice for judge selection reform
(Austin) Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson called the current method of electing judges in the state "broken", and called for a selection process that insulates itself from politics.
Jefferson spoke before a joint session of the Legislature Wednesday, delivering his biannual State of the Judiciary address.
He said 80 percent of Texans polled believe that campaign contributions affect the impartiality of judges.
"If the public believes that judges are biased toward contributors, confidence in the courts surely will suffer," said Jefferson.
Texas is one of only seven states that elects judges at all levels. Jefferson advocates a system where a judge is appointed and then subject to retention elections at the end of the term, where voters can decide whether or not to keep a judge on the bench.
Another problem with the current system, said Jefferson, is that straight party ticket voting unfairly advantages judges based on political affiliation and not on ability or competence.
"So long as we cast straight ticket ballots for judges, the fate of all judges is controlled by the political tide," he said.
Also Wednesday, Houston Senator Dan Patrick called for fiscal restraint as the Legislature prepares its budget.
He said he wants a cap on the growth of spending, linked to population growth and inflation, or growth in personal income, whichever amount is less.
"It's very important that we get control of spending as we move forward," said Patrick.
"This is not a time for government to spend one penny more than needs to be spent."
He said Texas' strong economic position relative to other states is proof that past Legislature's conservative spending policy was the right thing to do.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, Feb.17, at 11 a.m.